Monday, June 1, 2015

Reviews of Comics from Wednesday 5/27

Batman '66 #23
Story: Jeff Parker
Art: Brent Schoonover and Giancarlo Caracuzzo

Nearly two years into its run as a print comic, it's nice to see Batman '66 take a few chances. While the early issues focused on established villains in the universe created by the TV show, since the publication of the lost episode that introduced Two-Face into the universe, we've begun to see other Batman villains from the comics who never appeared on the show, including Harley Quinn and Lord Death Man. This issue is two short stories, both written bu series regular writer Jeff Parker, with two of Batman's more monstrous foes. The first story, drawn by Brent Schoonover, introduces Solomon Grundy, whose origin is tied to that of Marsha, Queen of Diamonds, one of the series's original villains. It's weird to see this universe and actual magic tied together, as so much of the classic series was tied up in funky 60s, but it's hard to do the walking dead and use science. Still, it's a scientific solution Batman comes up with to stop Grundy, even if it's as pseudo-scientific as Bat shark repellent. A highlight of the story is that Schoonover works homages to classic covers and Batman images into panels, one especially cool one being to an old Aurora Batman model I remember assembling as a kid (a reproduction from the 80s, mind, not the original). The second story introduces Clayface, and does a very cool thing of tying him into False Face, a TV villain. It establishes that False Face was Basil Karlo, who was also the original Clayface, and he is given an origin that has echoes of the Clayface origin from Batman: The Animated Series. Artist Giancarlo Caracuzzo draws a monstrous Clayface who never could have existed on the budget of the TV show, or looked good in the effects of the era. And again, as was often the case, for all the biff bam pow action, Batman defeats Clayface using his brain more than his brawn. I'm looking forward to seeing some more Batman villains introduced (we've been teased with Killer Croc and Poison Ivy, so they're on  the horizon), as it adds some nice flavor to a book that's already a lot of fun.

Convergence: Booster Gold #2
Story: Dan Jurgens
Art: Alvaro Martinez

Convergence has ended, and sadly it was more a whimper than a bang. But there were some real high points to the tie-ins, love letters to older versions of characters and their fans. One of those love letters was the Booster Gold series, written by Booster's creator, Dan Jurgens.This issue not only features two Boosters, but his son, Rip Hunter, his sister, Goldstar, his robot buddy, Skeets, and his best buddy, Blue Beetle. While it's still serious, with the older, original Booster dying of an overdose of chronal energy, we still get some fun moments as the other Booster, Rip, and Goldtsra fight the Legion of Super-Heroes, and post-Flashpoint Booster is still as much a goof as classic Booster pretended to be to hide his more serious duties. But it's the scenes between a rapidly aging Booster and Blue Beetle that warmed my heart. We've seen Booster try to save Beetle using time travel, both in the comics and in an episode of Batman: The Brave and the Bold, but here it's a resigned Booster who's meeting his friend when Beetle was in his prime, and Booster treats it as a gift. The two get to talk, and joke, and even though Booster tries to warn Beetle a little about his oncoming fate, he doesn't spoil the time together with portent. In the end, Booster gets to say his goodbyes to those he loves before he goes through a startling metamorphosis that makes absolutely perfect sense if you're familiar with a couple of DC's previous events. It's a bittersweet farewell, but with hints that the new Booster has an important place in upcoming events and the old time travel crew still out there guarding time, there's a glimmer of hope, and hopefully a hearty Bwah-ha-ha to come.

Divinity #4
Story: Matt Kindt
Art: Trevor Hairsine

Divinity has been the most experimental series I've read from Valiant, and it's been a resounding success with me. Matt Kindt talks in the production notes in the back about creating an overpowered character and the importance of knowing how to defeat them, and this issue is about the fall of Abram Adams, the godlike being called Divinity by his followers. Interestingly (and smartly) there is very little combat between the titular character and Unity, Valiant's premier superhero team (although there is a gorgeous two page spread of them assaulting him). Mostly, Unity fights Divinity's followers, who are trying to stop them from interfering with their god while trying a hail Mary to contain Divinity. Meanwhile, with all his power, Divinity has resurrected his girlfriend and daughter, and is talking to them. But it's not the conversation he wants to have. It's a tragedy, as Eve, the woman he loves, tells him that she lived a full life and she wants to stay where she is. it's not a great energy weapon, or brilliant tactics that defeats Divinity. It's his remaining humanity. The series ends on a few different notes, leaving the fate of the character and the world in the air. Unity is unsure what to do with a contained super being who could defeat them with barely a thought, Divinity's followers are ready to declare a holy war to retrieve their savior, and Divinity himself? Divinity has realized exactly how much has changed, both in the world and in himself, but still has some hope in a very human form. This level of introspection is uncommon in superhero comics; so much of post-Watchmen superhero comics plays at seriousness, but doesn't really talk about anything beyond brooding. Divinity explores what it's like to become a being of power in a very thoughtful and human way, something that impressed me greatly, and I'm looking forward to the sequel to see where Abram Adams's journey takes him next.

Ivar, Timewalker #5
Story: Fred Van Lente
Art: Francis Portela

Fred Van Lente can cram more into a comic than pretty much anyone I can think of. In one issue of Ivar, Timewalker, you get a science fiction assault in a space station, a discussion of time travel physics, a fight on a post-apocalyptic world, a conversation at a bar, and all of it is done with humor and character development. The issue opens as a space fleet attacks Oblivi-1, the time/space station that is the headquarter of the villains Ivar has been dealing with in the first arc of the series, only to meet an unfortunate fate. While we do see Neela Sethi, the scientist who has been the... target? Goal? Of everything Ivar, our titular time traveler has done over the course of the series so far, and we see her talking to another version of herself about their scientific goal, the majority of the issue is set in the year 9999, with Ivar trying to recruit his youngest brother, Gilad the Eternal Warrior, to storm Oblivi-1 to rescue Neela. It's pretty standard infiltration and save humanity from monsters, in this case the Nergal Horde, but it's elevated by Van Lente's dialogue. It's not only very funny, but it's staggeringly real. I have two little brothers, and I know how brothers talk and bicker, and Van Lente has it down. Despite Ivar being the eldest brother, it's Gilad who has always been the serious one, the one who takes his responsibilities to heart, but here, at the end of Earth, Gilad is ready to lay his arms down, for once Earth is gone, his responsibility as its guardian is gone too and he can rest. But Ivar's interference lights a spark under Gilad one more time, and he agrees as long as Ivar promises that Aram, the middle brother, better known as Armstrong, isn't coming, something Ivar agrees to without a blink. Cut back to a bar in 2015, where Ivar is talking to Armstrong shortly before he left for 9999 to find Gilad, and we see a familiar scene with a familiar promise. The issue ends with a scene involving the former captives of the Nergal Horde that I don't want to spoil, but it's interesting how both this plot and Ivar's own operate in a circle in this issue. Saying anything more would spoil the fun, and with this title, that's the last thing I would want to do.

Sandman: Overture #5
Story: Neil Gaiman
Art: J.H. Williams III

What more can I say about Sandman: Overture? This is the comic that I most look forward to whenever it happens to come out. It's Neil Gaiman and J.H. Williams working together seamlessly, producing a vision of beauty and a story that is enchanting in the literal sense of the word; I find myself unable to look away from the pages as I read the issue, quietly mouthing the words along with the comic. After being trapped in the previous issue, Dream finds himself in the court of his mother, Night, brought to her by a servant named Dusk. Dusk's "d" name makes me curious is she is another relative of the "d" named Endless, but that is not addressed here. Instead, we see Dream having a family squabble with his mother. Night makes some very valid points about Dream and his relationship with his siblings, but we also see where Dream and Desire get their tempers from. While within the blackhole, Dream deals with family issues, outside it, the Dream of Cats wanders the battlefields of the universe, the ones growing worse due to the machinations of the mad star, and begins to save people, as well as retrieving the lost girl Hope from the afterlife. What exactly the Dream of Cats's plan is remains mysterious, but he's still a cat, so that's pretty much par for the course. Dream escapes the blackhole, naturally, saved by Destiny, his elder brother. The reasoning for this particular rescue us cleverly presented, as it not only works with already established Sandman mythos in a way that it didn't occur to me it could, but gives some personality to Destiny, who has always been the dustiest member of the Endless; he's like Marvel's Uatu the Watcher, bound only to observe, only he actually does only observe. It kind of shows why Uatu was always doing stuff, since it makes him much more interesting. The final scene of the issue takes place on a boat, and here's where I want to call out Williams for his astounding work. Any page is a masterwork, but there's a great moment as Dream boards the boat and his clothes change from the usual flowing regalia he wears into a sailor's outfit that is done with such grace. It's a tiny detail, but those are what makes Williams amazing, he doesn't miss a beat. The designs of the boat and it's crew are similarly astounding. There's only one issue left now, one issue for Dream to bring about the downfall of the mad star that he inadvertently created, and to receive answers to as many of the questions as Gaiman is willing to answer. Because really, this comic is as ethereal as a dream, and whoever gets all the answers they want out of a dream?

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